Scott Martindaleby Scott Martindale
President, Sabrient Systems LLC

After an “investor’s paradise” year in 2017 – buoyed by ultra-low levels of volatility, inflation, and interest rates, and fueled even more by the promise of fiscal stimulus (which came to fruition by year end) – 2018 was quite different. First, it endured a long overdue correction in February that reminded investors that volatility is not dead, and the market wasn’t quite the same thereafter, as investors’ attention focused on escalating trade wars and central bank monetary tightening, leading to a defensive risk-off rotation mid-year and ultimately to new lows, a “technical bear market” (in the Nasdaq and Russell 2000), and the worst year for stocks since the 2008 financial crisis. Then, it was confronted with the Brexit negotiations falling apart, Italy on the verge of public debt default, violent “yellow vest” protests in France, key economies like China and Germany reporting contractionary economic data, and bellwether companies like FedEx (FDX) and Apple (AAPL) giving gloomy sales forecasts that reflect poorly on the state of the global economy. The list of obstacles seems endless.

Moreover, US stocks weren’t the only asset class to take a beating last year. International equities fared even worse. Bonds, oil and commodities, most systematic strategies, and even cryptocurrencies all took a hit. A perfect scenario for gold to flourish, right? Wrong, gold did poorly, too. There was simply nowhere to hide. Deutsche Bank noted that 93% of global financial markets had negative returns in 2018, the worst such performance in the 117-year history of its data set. It was a bad year for market beta, as diversification didn’t offer any help.

Not surprisingly, all of this has weighed heavily upon investor sentiment, even though the US economy, corporate earnings, and consumer sentiment have remained quite strong, with no recession in sight and given low inflation and interest rates. So, despite the generally positive fundamental outlook, investors in aggregate chose to take a defensive risk-off posture, ultimately leading to a massive selloff – accentuated by the rise of passive investing and the dominance of algorithmic trading – that did huge technical damage to the chart and crushed investor sentiment.

But fear not. There may be a silver lining to all of this, as it has created a superb buying opportunity, and it may finally spell a return to a more selective stock-picker’s market, with lower correlations and higher performance dispersion. Moreover, my expectation for 2019 is for a de-escalation in the trade war with China, a more accommodative Fed, and for higher stock prices ahead. Forward valuations overall have become exceedingly attractive, especially in the cyclical sectors that typically flourish in a growing economy.

In this periodic update, I provide a market commentary, offer my technical analysis of the S&P 500, review Sabrient’s latest fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings of the ten US business sectors, and serve up some actionable ETF trading ideas. In summary, our sector rankings remain bullish, while the sector rotation model remains in a defensive posture. Read on…

As everyone knows, stocks do not go up in a straight line, not even during the holidays. So although the future looks bright for U.S. equities as the major indexes continue to hit or challenge new highs, the market has been gasping for a breather to gather bullish conviction. My fear has been that we might not see it until January, which likely would have resulted in a more severe correction at that time. But falling oil prices and a weak Energy sector seems to have introduced a reason to sell this week.

After displaying a classic V-bottom reversal to what turned out to be a quick and anemic attempt by the bears to bring about a real correction, bullish fervor is becoming contagious, especially as the traditionally strong holiday season approaches. Indeed, the brief selloff was snatched up as a buying opportunity as I predicted it would, but my concerns about the market consolidating and struggling to hit new highs before year end were quickly dismissed. So, with nothing but blue skies overhead, will the party simply roll on?

Although the stock market displayed weakness last week as I suggested it would, bulls aren’t going down easily. In fact, they’re going down swinging, absorbing most of the blows delivered by hesitant bears. Despite holding up admirably when weakness was both expected and warranted, and although I still see higher highs ahead, I am still not convinced that we have seen the ultimate lows for this pullback. A number of signs point to more weakness ahead.

Did you buy a market index call option in advance of the Scott MartindaleFOMC announcement on Wednesday? Maybe a straddle? Or did you at least hold pat on long positions knowing that you held an implicit “Fed put” against any meaningful downside? It seems like many investors did one of these, as markets have been strong in advance of today’s announcement.

smartindale / Tag: iShares, sectors, ETF, SPY, VIX, FDX, CTSH, QCOM, EOG, EQT, iyw, IYE, IYF, IYJ, IYM, IYH, IDU, IYZ, IYC, IYK, JAZZ, GNW, EPL, OCN / 0 Comments

Technology led today’s robust rally as the dollar continued to weaken. Financials, especially banks, remained strong the first three days of last week then fell to profit-taking on the final two days, ending down a little more than -0.5% for the week.  Today, that sector regained all of that loss and advanced an extra 25 basis points to reach near multi-year highs, although it is still more than 50% off its early 2007 high.

david / Tag: acn, DFS, DISCA, DKS, FDX, NKE, ORCL, TIF, VLO, VXX / 0 Comments

The market is off to a great start this week, powered by last week's momentum and further buoyed by a lessening of fears about Europe's sovereign debt. All the major indices are above their 50-day and 200-day moving averages, with the S&P 500 finally breaking out of the 1120 resistance level, closing today at 1141, a new 4-month high. As an interesting historical aside, the 1120 resistance level was first encountered way back in April 1998.

david / Tag: BBY, BJGP, CSCO, CVU, FDX, GME, HPQ, IBM, JPM, MA, OPLK, ORCL, RIMM, SCVL, TXN, WATG / 0 Comments

The abundance of news last week -- most with a positive slant -- finally boosted the S&P 500 out of the Channel of Gloom in which it was mired for so long. Not only did the S&P 500 break out of the channel, but it is now threatening the 200-day moving average, having surpassed the 50-day MA last week.

david / Tag: AAPL, AET, AFL, AMZN, BA, CIT, F, FCFS, FDX, GOOG, IBM, LVS, MOT, MRK, MS, NTSC, RGR, S, sectors, SNE, TESS, V, XOM / 0 Comments